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BPOPF guns for making Sefalana, Choppies local

STAFF WRITER
Choppies store
Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) supports in full efforts to localise the economy, including in entities in which it invests in.

In an interview, BPOPF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Moemedi Malindah said he believes that localisation is good for the economy especially if it also considers best interest of the business.

The Fund is one of the entities with a controlling interest in Sefalana Holdings Company Limited at 42.85%. It also has 31% shares in Choppies Enterprises. Mmegi understands that Choppies completed its 10-year localisation plan in 2018 and now employs less than 40 expatriates.

Initially, the regional grocer had more than 380 expatriates before the completion of the localisation plan. Sources close to Choppies said the company was under pressure from government to localise majority of its management positions.

Curiously, majority of the expatriates who were terminated at Choppies found new jobs at its rival Sefalana. Both companies are primarily listed on Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE). Addressing the issue of localisation at both companies as the shareholder, Malindah said: “It is in the best interest of businesses that in areas where there are skills shortage they can employ adequately skilled expatriates but with proper skills transfer plans.

This is important because it helps these businesses to grow whilst at the same time upskilling and employing citizens of Botswana”. He added that the Fund has employment figures for Choppies and is aware of the level of expatriates employed.

“According to latest figures, less than two percent of the company’s employees are expatriates. The Fund does not have the latest employment figures for Sefalana,” he explained. He asserted that as part of its overall investment activities, the Fund influences decisions of

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entities in a manner that maximises shareholder value and economic benefits to the country, with the former being higher priority.

“Localisation thus becomes one of the levers through which economic value is driven for the country, but not at the expense of shareholder value. This applies not only to Sefalana and Choppies but to the overall portfolio of the BPOPF, in line with its ability to influence policy/strategy.”

Still on the issue of localisation, Botswana Federation of Public Private Parastatals Unions (BOFEPUSU) representative at the BPOPF Board Tobokani Rari said that they take issues of localisation quite seriously especially on positions that Botswana has abundant skills as a country. Rari said they are not really aware of the turn of events at one of the family value stores, that the entity is busy delocalising, but “if that is true, that would be very unfortunate and indeed uncalled for”.

“Unemployment in Botswana has reached its peak with the advent of coronavirus (COVID-19) and as such it make sense that where vacancies exists, Batswana should be hired to fight this ugly unemployment phenomenon which is ticking time bomb,” Rari said. He said the Commissioner of Labour has duty as enshrined in the law that she ensures companies do not import human skills that are locally abundant and “we are of the view government inspections through the Commissioner should reveal that at the concerned entity”.

The Botswana Localisation Policy is an affirmative action tool that gives preference to employment of Batswana over non-citizens with similar educational and training qualifications.



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